Answer to MBE Question From January 7th
(C) is correct.
Issue: Whether the fisherman can recover against the repair shop for failing to discover the defect in the boat during its inspection.
Rule: For a claim of negligence, a plaintiff must prove that he was owed a duty of care by the defendant, that the duty was breached, that the plaintiff suffered damages and that there was a causal link between the plaintiff’s injury and defendant’s breach. Generally, a professional person is held to a standard of conduct different than that of the reasonable person. A person who is a professional or has special skill (e.g. doctor, lawyer, airplane mechanic) is required to exercise the knowledge and skill of a member of the same profession in similar communities. The professional must also use such superior knowledge and skills as he actually possesses.
Analysis: Here, the facts state that the repair shop specialized in the types of boats that the fisherman bought. This created a special relationship in which the fisherman relied upon the mechanic’s superior knowledge and skills. The mechanic is thus held to a higher standard and, under the facts here, should have discovered the defect. Because he did not make a reasonable inspection of the boat, the fisherman took the boat out with the defect remaining and crashed. The repair shop was negligent and now can be held liable for the fisherman’s injuries.
(C) is correct. The repair shop owed a duty to the fisherman to conduct a reasonable inspection of the boat.
(A) is incorrect. This is not the issue. Whether the boat was damaged before does not release the repair shop of liability for their negligence. The issue is whether the repair shop acted reasonably in conducting the inspection of the boat.
(B) is incorrect because it is irrelevant that the boat was used. When the fisherman took it to the repair shop, it was the repair shop’s duty to find and correct defects. The cause of such defects has no effect on the repair shop’s liability if the defect was there when the repair shop inspected the boat.
(D) is incorrect. The repair shop cannot be held liable under strict liability, only negligence. Strict liability might apply to the supplier or manufacturer for selling the boat, but strict liability for a product defect is not available with regard to a repair shop that fails to uncover the defect.
(Remember that strict products liability is applicable when a product is sold to a consumer with a defect. Strict liability is then imposed on the commercial supplier or the manufacturer if the product was not altered and if the defect was in existence when the product was in the hands of the manufacturer).